-Taranto is the main city of its own county.
An ancient history, one of the first greek colony and, around 500 BC, one of the largest in the world, with population estimates up to 300,000 people.
Taranto is known as “The Spartan City” because it was the only colony ever founded by Sparta, in 706 BC.
Currently it’s the third largest city in continental South (not including Sicily and Sardinia).
The city is also known as the “city of two seas” because it is washed by the Ionian Sea (called Great sea) and by the vast reservoir of the ‘Little Sea’.
Taranto offers many interesting activities:
Old town tour, this part of the city is connected by two bridges (one is mobile, called ‘swing bridge’ – ponte girevole) to the land.
The bridge is opened to let the big navy boat ether to exit or enter the city depot centre.
It’s an island (not natural, though).
Currently the condition of this part of the city is not the best, for years was almost abandoned by its population.
Many buildings are in ruins, however it’s very interesting to walk from one point to another to see a genuine lower class lifestyle and conditions.
Many fishermen families still live here.
Aragonese Castle was built in the 15th century with the intention to protect the town from the Turks’ frequent raids.
The castle replaced a pre-existing fort which was deemed unfit for 15th century warfare.
Nowadays is a navy military base.
Tours in english are available too! It will be a couple of hours of interesting information about the city.
Best beer in Taranto: TABIR!
Everytime I visit the city, if I want a beer, I only go to Tabir.
This is where you get ONLY best beers available.
No commercial beers, only from small breweries and/or quality ones.
The owner is a real beer lover and expert and he’ll be happy to guide you to the best combination of drink and food (all local products!)
Not easy to get back in the writing habit! My last post was something like 4 months ago and many things changed since then.
Don’t want to bore my 4 dear readers but let me tell you something related to this post, a nice italian song from the golden 80’s said ‘…voglio andare ad Alghero…in compagnia di uno straniero…’, which means ‘wanna go to Alghero with a foreigner companion’.
Well, I did it and my foreigner companion is my beloved girlfriend from Slovakia. I hope a bit of gossip could help rising my followers and contacts 🙂
Anyways, let me start describing Alghero, a small city in Sardinia, the second biggest island in the mediterranean sea (after Sicily), with a very close airport with several low-cost flights from all over Europe.
Alghero is famous for its dialect with catalan’ roots and for its red coral jewelery. The nice city is a very well-known touristic destination, during summer there are many visitors, enjoying the beautiful beaches, sun, good food and nightlife
For this reason I decided to go off-season. Plus I needed a short break after the long polish winter…oh yes! this would be my second gossip news that I’ll treat in more details in the next posts.
To be honest in this period of the year many restaurants, bars and other premises are closed, awaiting for the peak season, however for a budget traveller like me it wasn’t such a big deal.
I could enjoy the more genuine city soul, local people were happy to see tourists and like to take care of them.
I happened to stop in a small bar (nearby the cathedral) for a couple of glasses of ‘cannonau‘ and ‘buio‘, sardinian good quality wines, receiving appetizers and snacks, mostly from genuine local products, such as olives, ‘pane curasau‘, sausages, ‘pecorino‘ cheese…
The same happened in the small B&B run by Giovanni (firstname.lastname@example.org), where I spent 4 nights in a double bed room, for 28Euro/night.
Every morning the owner was preparing a tasty breakfast with local bread, cheese, vegetables, organic extra virgin oil, fresh baked pastries…
In summer, no doubts!
Enjoy the sea and the beaches. Sardinian sea is considered the most beautiful in Europe.
Long white sands beaches are all along the northern cost.
The most famous beach is ‘spiaggia delle bombarde‘, few km far from the city.
Other beaches are ‘Mugoni‘, Lazzaretto, Lido…
Something not to be missed is definitely ‘Capo Caccia‘ and its famous ‘Grotte di Nettuno’, a natural cave accessible either via sea (with organized boat tour, only with good weather!) or via the spectacular ‘Escala del Cabirol’ – Cabirol steps.
You will never forget about its 600 steps, effort paid back by an incredible view.
Capo Caccia is a beautiful cliffs at the end of a natural fiord.
There is also a very nice spot where to enjoy a breathtaking sunset…
Narrow streets, with numerous bars, cafes, restaurants (renowned for excellent seafood like spaghetti with sea urchins) and small artisanal shops.
There are also interesting markets with food and local products, during the week-days.
The road from Alghero to Bosa, a smaller town towards the south coast is also worth, for the beautiful view.
Last but not least, let me suggest to try the sardinian beer ‘Ichnusa’.
Italian beers are not that bad, after all… 🙂
Skopje is the interesting capital of the Republic of Macedonia (officially the ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’/FYROM, due to a dispute with Greece over the history of this region and its name).
The city (and the country) is divided by the two biggest communities, arab (albanians and turks) and orthodox (macedonians and serbs).
You will admire Byzantine churches and monasteries, ancient Roman sites and Ottomans mosques. The 26th of July 1963 an earthquake destroyed 75% of the buildings in the city. As a result you will see many new buildings and statues in the city centre.
Below you can find my budget tips for a nice visit:
1- Visit the Old bazar
The old bazar is the heart of the city and its real symbol, with many small shops, narrow streets, arabic cafè, restaurants and bar where to hang out in the night.
In the past it was covered with wine grape, so it would protect the shoppers from the sun and the rain. The old bazaar was never used for living, it always was a shopping area and contact zone of the Christian and the Muslim population as they lived in separate parts of the town.
Even though some parts of the old bazaar have been destroyed to make streets and parking lots, it still is the largest one in the Balkans and there is still a lot of atmosphere in it.
2- Spend a day at Matka canyon
It takes approx. 30/40 minutes to reach this beautiful place by public transportation (bus nr. 60). Ticket can be bought from the driver (35MKD). The bus runs every 90 minutes, therefore ask for the schedule times to not wait too long.
Matka features a lake and a dam. Climbers and hikers enjoy a variety of trails of different difficulty there. You can see a complex of medieval monasteries and remnants of a fortress remain too.
There is also a chance to rent a guided boat to explore the lake and some caves, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
The Kale Fortress stands on the highest hill in the Skopje valley and offers great views over the city. It has free entrance.
It was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian who was born in the village of Taorion near Skopje. The fortress was badly damaged in the fire in 1689 and even more during the earthquake of 1963
From the fortress you can admire Vodno Mountain a popular hiking place with marked paths leading through the woods and there are a couple of rest areas. On the top of Vodno the Millennium Cross was built to mark 2000 years of Christianity in Macedonia. It is 66 meters high and it is the highest structure in Macedonia.
4- Stay at Urban hostel.
It is a quiet and tidy hostel with nice rooms (with balcony), a front garden and a back yard.
Breakfast is included in the price and friendly staff always willing to help.
More for tourists rather than for backpackers, in my opinion, however it won’t be difficult to find good company and nice people to chat with.
It s located in a beautiful zone not far from city centre, quiet and safe.
Bars, mini markets and restaurants are at walking distance.
Seat in a cafe by the riverside near the old bridge and spend some time there, at night this area becomes a lively party zone.
There are plenty of bars in the Old Bazar too, the nightlife there recently has become very interesting (favorites places by locals are La Kaña, Damar, Rakija Bar…).
During the day and in the early evening, tea and turkish cafè are the most common drinks rather than alcohol
Nighlife is interesting too, better ask a local for updated situation. During summer the Skopje Summer Festival together with the Pivolend (beer fest) will pleasantly entertain your time.
Make sure to try the famous Macedonian foods such as burek and Shopska Salata, cevapi...
Skopje (like in the whole balkans region) offers a great mix of eastern european, ottoman and mediterranean cuisine style.
There are many local bakeries all around the city where many Macedonians have breakfast and snacks. Salty pastries, called burek (a flaky filo pie stuffed with meat, cheese or spinach) are the dominant offer and they are usually combined with plain yogurt.
Prices are very cheap and the quality of food is good.